“Count your blessings one by one” – a military spouse and mother shares her story

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Important Note: The woman who I interviewed for this entry will be referred to as “Ruth” – Ruth and her family will soon be moving to a foreign country to become missionaries, and we do not want to disclose anything that may jeopardize their safety.

“Count your blessings one by one and see all the things that the Lord has done.” – Song lyrics, translated to English from Ruth’s native dialect

I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with my friend from church over some delicious Rubio’s cuisine and learning more about her past and her experiences as a young Christian in The Republic of the Philippines and then as a military spouse and mother in San Diego. Ruth had so much good stuff to share, and it was very clear to me that the Lord has blessed her with great wisdom. I was so encouraged and inspired by our conversation, and I am excited to share some highlights with you all now!

Question 1: Can you share a little bit about growing up in The Philippines? How and when did you come to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?

Ruth was born in The Philippines as the youngest of six children. Her mother was a Christian, and Ruth always attended church service with her on Sundays. However, her father was not a Christian which caused “chaos in the house.” While her dad was raised in a Christian household, he ran away from home at the age of 17 in order to pursue a college education. He went on to abandon his faith in college. Despite this division in her household, Ruth remembers loving the Lord and accepting Christ as her Savior at a young age.

Ruth faced significant hardships during her youth. Out of her six siblings, she was closest to her brother who was diagnosed with kidney failure at a young age. Ruth said she gathered with her family after hearing from the doctor that her brother only had six months to live, and they prayed and pleaded with the Lord that He would give her brother a year to live. The Lord ended up blessing her brother with seven years of life before he passed away.

Also, when Ruth was six years old, one of her older sisters (at age 16) was kidnapped by terrorists and held for ransom. Unable to pay the ransom, Ruth’s father exchanged his life for the life of his daughter. Ruth’s father was held captive by terrorists until Ruth’s father’s employers paid the ransom.

After Ruth’s father returned home, they moved to a different city and Ruth’s parents started their own business. They became wealthy. However, as a result, Ruth was raised by her maids, and she only saw her parents for half of a day on Sunday when she would attend church with her mother. Ruth felt lonely and abandoned by her parents and she felt ashamed for not knowing basic life skills like how to cook and sew. Her mother never had time to teach her these things.

Later, Ruth decided to attend a boarding school for college. She was determined to live on her own and teach herself these basic skills that she did not learn from her parents. Ruth earned a management degree in college but had a hard time finding a job after graduating. In order to get a job you often needed an “in” with a company and her parents had recently gone bankrupt and were unable to provide her with assistance. Ruth then decided to join a missionary school and become a Christian missionary.

Question 2: How did you come to meet your husband?

Ruth had always been attracted to Westerners – they were seen as “exotic” by many Filipina women. Ruth kept a journal for many years and in her journal she wrote down what she was looking for in her future spouse – first and most importantly, she wanted him to be a Christian who would be the spiritual leader for the household. This was particularly important to Ruth after being raised by a father who was not a Christian. Also, Ruth journaled that she wanted a man who was  “an American, tall, good at math, with a sharp nose, blue eyes, and between 5’7″ and 5’8″.” Throughout her life, she consistently prayed for her future husband and asked the Lord to guide her in finding this man.

While in missionary school, she heard about the online dating website, FilipinaHeart.com, from a Filipina woman who was engaged to marry an American. Ruth decided to sign up. Two weeks later, she received an email from a handsome American wearing a military uniform – Ruth liked men in uniform! This email was the first of many many emails. This man and Ruth sent each other an email every single day and they spent most of their time discussing and debating theology. Ruth was falling for this guy – his knowledge of the Bible and his love for Christ were exactly the traits that she was looking for in her future husband. This man even sponsored her to go on a mission trip to Indonesia! They talked for three months before Ruth sent this man a picture of herself. Ruth really wanted this man to love her for who she was and fall in love with her heart for God and not just be physically attracted to her. One thing led to another, and this man proposed to Ruth over the phone (they had not even met in person yet)! Her fiancé then made a trip to The Philippines to meet her in person and meet her family. Ruth’s family did not approve of her fiancé because he was in the Navy and he was a foreigner. They feared that things would not work out because “Sailors are not faithful to their wives.”

However, despite her family’s disapproval, Ruth prayed consistently and boldly asked the Lord for direction, and as a result, she knew, with confidence, that this was the man that the Lord had chosen to be her husband.  And with that confidence in the Lord giving her strength, Ruth moved to San Diego (this was her first time traveling to America) with just one suitcase that was mostly filled up by her wedding dress! (She had her wedding dress made for her in The Philippines because she was worried that she was too short to fit in any American wedding dresses!) Shortly thereafter, in 2006, she got married and a year later, Ruth and her husband had a son. In 2013, they gave birth to a daughter.

Question 3: What was it like moving to America?

It was extremely hard for Ruth to adjust to living in American. She said that it took her 9-10 years to fully assimilate. While Ruth was proficient in the written English language, she initially found it hard to speak and difficult to keep up during conversations with other Americans. Also, she was used to having family live close to her and having neighbors be very friendly. However, in America, it seemed like everyone minded their own business and not many people reached out to her. As a result, Ruth spent a lot of time alone. She did not have many friends and she was extremely lonely. She often felt out of place and awkward around Americans because of how different her upbringing was. She was embarrassed to admit things like how she ate fish for breakfast and was scared to drive on the highways!

Her husband continued to love her well throughout this time. He was a member of a church plant in San Diego so Ruth became a member of his church. They would go on to do a family Bible study together every night, even when her husband was away from home on a Navy assignment.

Question 3: How did you and your children cope while your husband was deployed? What did the Lord teach you through this time?

Not only was it challenging to assimilate to the new culture, but Ruth often had to spend large chunks of time alone while her husband was deployed or gone on an assignment. Ruth’s husband deployed once soon after they got married and then he deployed again when their son was four years old. While the first deployment was extremely hard on Ruth because she was experiencing such acute culture shock and did not yet have many friends or feel comfortable driving, the second deployment was harder emotionally because she was caring for her son, alone.

When asked about how she coped with these hardships, Ruth answered that “I am just so into prayer. That’s my thing.” Ruth’s consistent time in the Word and in prayer is what kept her grounded in the truth and hope of the Gospel during these challenging times. Also, Ruth’s church started a discipleship program and as a result, Ruth started to meet with a couple of other women on a weekly basis. This became a safe place where Ruth could express how she was struggling and ask for prayer, encouragement, and accountability from these women. Ruth also focused on trusting the Lord’s calling for her life during this time. She knew she was where the Lord wanted her to be and she focused her energy on loving her husband well, despite the separation. She set aside her sadness in order to sacrificially love and be faithful to what the Lord had called her to do.

The Lord taught Ruth throughout this time the importance of endurance in the Christian faith. The Lord comforted Ruth with scripture such as Psalm 46 that reminded her to be still and know that the Lord is in control, He is always with her, and He is her fortress during times of great hardship! How sweet a promise! Ruth continued to pray faithfully to the Lord that He would be her comfort and shelter, and she trusted that the Lord was faithful to listen to her prayers. She had confidence in these truths because the Lord sent His beloved, only begotten Son, to die on a cross for her sins so that she could be in relationship with the perfect, heavenly Father!

Question 4: What advice would you give for a new military spouse?

How do you love the Lord when you are lonely…cooking for just yourself…waiting for your husband’s email that he is too busy to send…what does it look like to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul during these times? Ruth has pondered these questions while she was alone and her husband was deployed. Here are some of the things that the Lord taught her and some practical words of wisdom that Ruth provided:

  • Be bold in prayer! Pray for your husband unceasingly.
  • Study Scripture together, every day. Ruth and her husband continued to talk every day that they could while he was deployed, via email or whatever other communication methods were available. They studied the Bible every day and discussed it with each other, even when he was gone on deployment.
  • Don’t keep a record of wrongs while your husband is deployed (like how many times he failed to email you…)
  • Don’t set expectations for the reunion after deployment. Transitioning back to being together can sometimes be just as tough as adjusting to living on your own after your husband leaves for deployment.
  • Help your husband fight sexual temptation while he is gone – come up with a creative way to still enjoy these couple pleasures while you are physically separated
  • Ask your husband: “How can I love and respect you throughout this deployment?” Be honest and straight-forward with your feelings. Do you not assume your husband knows how you are feeling or can pick up and understand all of your emotions via email or from a phone call conversation.
  • Don’t depend on your husband for your own spiritual growth! One day we all will stand before God, alone…
  • “Don’t let the sun set on your anger”
  • Fight selfishness, always
  • Understand your calling as a wife, to submit to your husband’s authority
  • Keep yourself busy in the Lord while your husband is away! Serve the church and even take the initiative to reach out to new people in the church.
  • Don’t be afraid to say that you need help and you are struggling

Questions 5: What advice would you give for how to mother your children while your husband is in the military and frequently gone?

Ruth’s response:

  • Develop a habit of prayer. Thank the Lord constantly for your husband and your children! Continue the routine of prayer and family Bible study that you established with your husband.
  • Don’t get out of bed in the morning without thanking the Lord for the night and the day ahead
  • Show your children the love of the Lord through loving your husband well, even when you are physically separated
  • Connect everything and anything that you can back to the Lord. Even secular movies and books that your children consume can have themes that can be tied back to the Gospel. BE INTENTIONAL about sharing the Gospel message with your children as often as possible.
  • Ask for forgiveness from your children when you sin against them
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your Christian community and ask for help with your kids
  • Appreciate your kids, affirm them in the Lord
  • Point to Jesus in everything so that God is glorified in everything

I hope you all are as convicted and encouraged as I was by my conversations with Ruth! Overall, what really stood out to me was her mental discipline and prayer discipline. It was clear to me that the Lord has been faithful to Ruth and her family. As Ruth has drawn near to God, God has drawn near to her (James 4:8)! My prayer is that we could all be inspired by Ruth and learn to be more bold and consistent in praying to God, trusting that he is our comfort and our shelter! Thanks to the Holy Spirit that indwells us and the church body, we are never alone!

Post by Brynn Gray

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